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Pediatric cancer and palliative care: parental preferences compared with health-care professionals
Date:10/17/2011

Parents of children in the palliative stage of cancer favour aggressive chemotherapy over supportive care compared with health care professionals, states an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) (pre-embargo link only) http://www.cmaj.ca/site/embargo/cmaj110392.pdf.

Cancer is the second most common cause of death for children aged 5 to 14 in North America. When it is unlikely the cancer will be cured, parents and health care professionals must often choose between continuing aggressive treatments or providing supportive care alone to alleviate discomfort.

"The choice between palliative chemotherapy and supportive care alone is one of the most important and difficult decisions for parents of children whose disease cannot be cured," writes Dr. Lillian Sung, Division of Haematology/Oncology, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto, with coauthors.

The researchers sought to compare preferences between parents and health care professionals in making these decisions. They included 77 parents whose children (under the age of 18) had no reasonable chance of recovering from cancer as well as 128 staff physicians, senior fellows, nurses and social workers who work with pediatric cancer patients.

They found that 55% of parents favoured chemotherapy over supportive care compared with 16% of health care professionals. Health care professionals viewed supportive care more positively than parents did. The researchers suggest that "parents may focus more on hope for their child compared with health care professionals, who are more aware of eventual outcomes given their experiences with many similar children."

"Despite the high importance ranking they assigned to their child's quality of life, parents reported that they would accept chemotherapy even if it reduced both quality of life and survival time," write the authors. "This finding shows
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Contact: Kim Barnhardt
kim.barnhardt@cmaj.ca
613-520-7116 x2224
Canadian Medical Association Journal
Source:Eurekalert

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